How Real Is Milbank’s Bold Biglaw Big Pay Step

How Real Is Milbank's Bold Biglaw Big Pay Step

In the realm of Biglaw, marked by a cautiously optimistic atmosphere, Milbank has taken a bold step by elevating first-year associate salaries to an unprecedented $225,000. However the reality of the pay rise may be something else.

The Milbankmove not only sets a new standard in legal remuneration but also signals a robust confidence in the prospects for 2024. Or does it?

The new base salaries will be paid beginning in January 2024, and range from $225,000 for Class of 2023 associates to $425,000 for the longer-serving associates.

This is particularly notable given the fluctuating client demand and transactional work experienced in the previous year.

However, as AbovetheLaw notes, the reality is somewhat different with ATL editor Joe Patrice noting that firms that do not match Milbank are effectively cutting their attorney salaries.

“Lawyers aren’t making more money, they’re getting back to even. Honestly, this is the same salary in real terms that associates have made for over 20 years. Plug the old $125,000 scale from 1999 into an inflation calculator and it is — SURPRISE — $230K. There’s nothing “more” about this raise and associates shouldn’t have to bill a second more than they did in 1999 to deserve this compensation,” Patrice wrote.

The $10,000 increase in salary from Milbank not only breaks the norm but sets a new precedent in an industry that has seen only modest financial advancements in recent times.

From January 2024, the salary increase will be implemented across various levels of the firm’s hierarchy, with senior associates seeing their compensation rise to as much as $425,000.

This strategic decision aligns with the firm’s announcement of year-end bonuses that maintain the status quo, reaffirming Milbank’s dedication to offering competitive pay amidst an evolving economic landscape.

These Milbank moves are indicative of the firm’s resilience and forward-thinking approach, aligning with a more robust health in the legal sector.

Milbank and other Biglaw firms have not increased associate salaries since early 2022 in the face of reduced client demand in M&A and other transactional work.

This follows a booming global deal market in 2021 when Biglaw pay deals were all the rage as law firms sought to keep legal talent.

However it will be interesting to note just what other Biglaw firms pay rates do in the wake of Milbank’s offer and whether they are seeing their lawyers remunerated in terms of the current cost of living situation.


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